A Quixotic Proposal: Researcher Suggests New Scrabble Letter Values

Bad news for anyone who's ever played the word "contextualize" -- they just don't make Xs and Zs like they used to.

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Attention, Scrabble fans: your triple letter score might be in need of a downgrade.

The values of each letter in the iconic word game Scrabble are based off newspaper pages from the 1930s, but times have changed since then, and so has our language. Researcher Joshua Lewis says that the modern Scrabble dictionary has made it easier than ever to play the game’s more challenging tiles, so he went ahead and recalculated their values.

Lewis created a software program called Valett that analyzes, among other factors, how often letters appear in the English language and how often they appear within words of various lengths. By his calculations, the letter X, currently worth eight points, should be worth five. The letter Z, worth 10 points, should only be worth six points. Other letters, he discovered, are now harder to play and should be worth more: U, currently one point, should be worth two, while G, now two points, should become three.

(MORE: Scrabble Player Gets Ousted From National Championships for Cheating)

Scrabble purists are probably shouting cries of b-l-a-s-p-h-e-m-y (21 points) right now. John Chew, the co-president of the north American Scrabble Players Association, told the BBC that the outrage of players would be c-a-t-a-s-t-r-o-p-h-i-c (also 21 points). Chew receives a handful of tile value suggestions from players every year.

Alfred Butts, who founded Scrabble in 1938 and used the New York Times to calculate values, passed away almost 20 years ago. But if Mr. Butts were still alive today, he might not be too upset about the change. After all, his wife, Nina, was apparently a much better Scrabble player than he was — she once scored 234 points for the word quixotic.

Of course, that’s nothing compared to Michael Cresta, a carpenter from Lexington, Mass. who set several Scrabble records during a game in October of 2006. In addition to scoring the most points by a single player in a game (830), he also set the record for the highest number of points scored in a single turn: 365 points for quixotry.

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